THE House on Monday used a “flimsy technicality” to drop the fourth impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III to “conceal his wrongdoing,” the complainants charged on Monday.
But the House leadership claimed that the complainants were late in filing their complaint since the three previous impeachment complaints filed last week was transmitted to the House committee on justice a few hours after the fourth complaint was filed.
“The one-year ban has already taken effect. Consequently, the fourth impeachment complaint can no longer be referred [to the justice committee],” Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said.
The complainants said Aquino connived with his Cabinet emissaries and congressmen in retaining the P20-billion pork barrel funds this year despite the Priority Development Assistance Fund being declared unconstitutional.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, one of the complainants, was immediately threatened by his colleagues with charges of wiretapping and squealing before the House committee on ethics for divulging information that transpired during an “executive session,” which involved Cabinet officials and congressmen who supposedly discussed the continuance the PDAF funds.
“Under the House rules, executive sessions are held only when these involve national security,” Tinio said.
“What is national security concerns in Commission on Higher Education Chairman Patricia Licuanan and Health Undersecretary Janette Garin talking about the congressmen’s scholars and medical assistance?
“President Aquino need not issue an order on what to do with our impeachment complaint. It was unfortunate but expected that they would kill our complaint on technicality.
“However, we cannot condone the acts of the President and his allies to conceal wrongdoing and use the government time and resources to suppress the truth that the PDAF remains alive and kicking despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that it was unconstitutional.”
Malacañang, meanwhile, on Monday said allowing lawmakers to nominate projects in the General Appropriations Act was not a violation of a Supreme Court ruling declaring the PDAF or pork barrel unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court decision spoke that what is unconstitutional with the PDAF is the budget execution participation of congressmen,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“There’s no problem when you are proposing when you are in the budget proposal phase of the GAA. What the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional is the legislature’s role in budget execution.”
Tinio has said that Aquino sent his Cabinet officials as emissaries to Congress to offer pork barrel to congressmen in clandestine meetings despite the high court ruling that the PDAF is unconstitutional.
Tinio on Monday said it was expected of the President’s allies to close ranks and protect the President, the Cabinet emissaries and the lawmakers themselves because “all of them have connived to get around the law by concealing wrongdoings that despite the President’s promise to abolish the PDAF, the pork barrel system remains intact.”
In filing the fourth impeachment complaint, Tinio’s group was not accommodated by House Secretary General Marilyn Barua Yap. Only her staff received the complaint.
The House leadership claimed Tinio’s group was late in filing since the three impeachment complaints filed simultaneously last week were ready for transmittal to the House committee on justice, led by Iloilo City Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., a stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party.
The three complaints were transmitted by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the LP’s party whip, Monday afternoon a few hours after the fourth complaint was filed.
Licuanan and Garin separately met behind closed doors, and the congressmen and assured them their allocation for scholars and medical assistance for indigents remained intact.
Tinio attached the transcript of what transpired behind closed doors, where Licuanan admitted that she had to tell the regional directors of the State Colleges and Universities that the P14-million allocation was not additional funds for CHED but for the congressmen.
“I had to tell my regional directors that the P14 million is for each congressman and that they should prioritize the list of scholars to be submitted by the congressmen,” Licuanan told the lawmakers as shown in the transcript that was submitted by Tinio’s group as evidence.
Garin had to assure the lawmakers that “These are your funds, not the DOH’s to help the poor patients.”
Licuanan also admitted that some P4.1 billion was earmarked for the lawmakers’ scholars, with each congressman getting an allocation of P14 million.
The Palace and the House agreed to realign the P20-billion PDAF for this year to six national government agencies as follows: 1] CHED, P4.1 billion or P14 million for each congressman’s scholars; 2] Department of Health, P3.1 billion or P10 million for each congressman’s list of indigent patients; 3] TESDA, P1 billion or P3.5 million for the congressman’s scholars; 4] the Department of Labor and Employment, P1 billion or P3.5 million for livelihood projects of workers;
5] Department of Social Welfare and Development, P4.1 billion or P14 million for each congressman’s enrollees for the controversial Conditional Cash Transfer Program; and 6] the Department of Public Works and Highways, P6.8 billion or P23 million for each congressman’s hard infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.
In all, the congressmen’s total take amounted to P68 million or P2 million short of their previous annual allocation of P70 million each.
But the congressmen were also allowed to nominate other projects from various agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture for its farm-to-market roads and irrigation projects in their districts.
The congressmen are also allowed to avail themselves of P10 million to P20 million in road user’s tax.
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